Monday, May 7, 2012

Good Enough by Sharon Lurie

© 2012 David's Harp and Pen

Mood: Restful

DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any neat freaks or domestic gurus who think I am somehow encouraging a slovenly lifestyle. I merely insuring that all my friends and loved ones don’t succumb to the growing onslaught of autoimmune deficiencies.

As I’ve mentioned in a few previous blogs, I am recovering from a long-term illness. In the meantime, I have been working some odd jobs to supplement my income. One of those recent jobs included cleaning some magazine racks in various stores in the area to prepare for a big inspection. As also mentioned in a few previous blogs, cleaning is not my strong suit. Whenever I am forced to clean anything, it sends me into a panic. But since this work meant some much needed money, I gritted my teeth and took the evil magazine racks to task.

The magazine racks are painted black and sit in the front of all the stores near the front doors. The problem with cleaning them was as soon as I dusted and wiped them down, the doors would open, allowing dust from the outside to blow in that would immediately cover the racks again, making them look like they’d never been cleaned in the first place. And to be honest, I don’t think some of those racks had ever been cleaned. The dust gathered at the bottom of them had long passed the point of being dust bunnies; these were full-grown dust mastodons! Given my aforementioned insecurities about cleaning, I found myself pulling my hair, weeping, and gnashing my teeth due to my inability to conquer what quickly appeared to be an impossible situation. I soon convinced myself that I would fail at my task, flunk the inspection, lose my job, and be publicly exposed on one of those reality shows about terminal slobs.

I spoke with my supervisor on the phone, voicing my frustration and apologizing in advance for what I perceived to be my failure to complete my assigned task. He told me that my best was all I could do, and not to spend too much time obsessing over it. My supervisor said the inspector was OCD and rather anal-retentive, and so there would be no pleasing him no matter how clean the racks were. After I hung up with him, I realized my insecurity about not being good enough was not confined to cleaning the racks.

There are a million reasons to not feel good enough, and what I discovered during this little venture is how “not good enough” can keep us from relationships and keep us from moving forward. I know for me personally, that feeling of not good enough keeps me from trying, because I feel if I can’t get it right the first time or plan out how to get it right the first time, I shouldn’t try at all. I get so worked up about trying to get to the finished product, such as perfectly spotless magazine racks, that I forget in order to reach that goal, I must first allow myself to be a work in progress. Not good enough also keeps me isolated from the healing I can find in community because I think if my faults and shortcomings are so irksome to me, they must be really annoying to those around me. Some things take a long time. Mastering all the ins and outs of keeping a home, being a good leader, writing effectively, whatever it may be, take time. Also, in the case of the magazine racks, there are some things in life that will never be fully resolved or overcome this side of Heaven. Part of growing in maturity and learning to be really fruitful is being able to recognize the things I can change and improve on and those things that are truly out of my control.

In recent months, I have seen how much the feeling of not good enough has kept me back. It’s crippled me in my writing, keeping me from putting pen to paper; because I don’t feel what I have to say is slick or spiritual enough. It’s crippled me in the Boaz department, because I’ve purposely run away from some really great guys for fear I just didn’t measure up. It’s held me back in the fellowship department because, for fear that my cooking, cleaning, and entertaining skills were lacking, I have been afraid to invite people into my house.

This insecurity isn’t totally unfounded. It usually isn’t for those of us that struggle with it on a regular basis. I’ve had to live with those insatiable, germaphobic neat freaks who found dirt, and fault, in everything. I have also dated or been friends with those guys who, no matter what food I put before them, found something to complain about it, such as I served the wrong bread or drink with the meal, or I didn’t cook such-and-such the right way. However, past criticism can’t be an excuse to remain bound to present insecurity. I have to make the choice to shut out that unfounded criticism and chronically critical people.

Back in November, I decided to throw fear to curb and caution to the wind and invite two of my single guy friends over for a home-cooked meal. I spent most of the time they were here trying to shut off my x-ray vision, which was seeking out and cataloging every speck of dust and strand of dog hair in my apartment. Towards the end of the evening, it dawned on me that my insecurity about the condition of my home and the state of my cooking was keeping me from simply enjoying their company (and they are both fabulous company). As it turned out, neither of them got food poisoning, and even though they didn’t say much about the food, I think I can safely assume they liked it because, a.) they still talk to me, b.) they still come over, and c.) they still eat whatever I set before them.

In January, confident from the success of cooking for my man pals, I invited two of my pastors and their spouses over for dinner. I ran terribly behind in my preparations due to the fact that my dog Bruno gave himself and, subsequently, my floors and furniture, a mud bath. I had to change my menu at the last minute because of limited grocery shopping and cooking time. One of my pastors has Celiac’s Disease, so I had the added challenge of cooking my first gluten free meal. As the time of their arrival approached, I grew more nervous as I observed my mismatched place settings, the teeth marks in the handles of my silverware from when Bruno had gnawed on them, and countless other little things that sent me the message I was the world’s worst hostess. Upon their arrival, I was prepared for criticism at my lack of ambiance and domesticity. (Not that any of my pastors would say this to me, nor have they in the past. Again, it’s that inner monologue.) When they got here, though, they had nothing but praise and admiration for the meal I had prepared and the fact that I did it without a stove and full-sized oven (all I have is counter top, over-sized toaster oven with two electric burners). The night was a bunch of fun, and one of my pastors started to nod off in my chair. This may sound silly, but someone being comfortable enough in my home to fall asleep is the highest compliment. When the meal was over, they even helped me do the dishes!

I learned some huge lessons that night, and through the whole magazine rack odyssey. First of all, sometimes it’s okay to let good enough be good enough. Until I get to Heaven, I will always be a work in progress, with room for improvement. Maybe it’s better said that it’s okay to just be “good enough for now.” With God’s help, I can and will improve. Secondly, God, as well as my friends, don’t love me for what I do. They don’t share life with me because of how well I cook or clean or because I have a swinging, happening and hip bachelorette pad. My station in life, my domestic skills, etc., can improve or worsen. However, I am loved for the things about me that cannot change.

C.S. Lewis said, “God doesn’t love us because we are good. He makes us good because He loves us.” Paul said in Titus 3, “But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Not good enough cripples me from all that is life giving and lovely. The only way to keep that insecurity at bay is to be mindful of the mercy bestowed on me by the One Who is good enough for all of us.

The End